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Month – May 2014

Something Taken

The author says:

In constant conflict with her family, Terry leaves home to prove she can make it on her own. Arriving in Denver, her plans unravel quickly and her drinking lands her in trouble. Then all her plans collapse when she is stopped by the police and the officer intimidates her into submitting to his pleasure. The cop isn’t content with one encounter and pursues her relentlessly. The only one Terry can depend on is her pup, Sprout. But the escalating pursuit is about to reach a deadly climax. SOMETHING TAKEN is a urban crime drama set in the 70’s. It’s graphic realism is directed to an adult audience.

something taken city cov

something taken city cov

 

Nathan says:

I think this cover suffers from the same thing that the previously posted one does: it doesn’t convey the genre that the blurb describes.  Seeing a city from far away doesn’t say “urban crime drama” to me; there’s no indication that this is a story involving police, or non-consensual (semi-consensual?) sex, or the ’70s (that last might not be a bad thing, but…)  If I had to guess, I’d assume that the cover shown here is about a woman taking a self-discovery road trip away from the city with her dog.

If you want your audience to think “urban crime drama,” show me city streets at night. Show me police lights. Show me a face with heavy chiaroscuro shadows. Show me a bold, blocky typeface.

What does everyone else think?

Kali’s Eye

The author says:

This is young adult Adventure/Mystery: For two children, who have spent their entire lives in a tea garden, traveling from India to England is an adventure in any sense of the word. Reality supersedes imagination when they meet three impetuous cousins, an imperious Scottish viscount, and discover that England is not nearly as jolly as they expected. As they blunder through caverns, sail the high seas, and ramble through grand houses, it becomes increasingly clear that the events that are unfolding around them are bound by a mysterious yellow diamond, known as Kali’s Eye…Yet, even Kali’s Eye has no power over the looming thunder of War.

Kali's Eye Cover Olivia Graham resized

Kali's Eye Cover Olivia Graham resized

 

Nathan says:

I think the biggest problem here is that this doesn’t look like a young adult mystery/adventure (and if, as the description says, your protagonists are two children, then what you might have here is a middle-grade mystery/adventure, and it looks even less like that).  Take a look at the books with which this one would share shelf space: Colorful cover schemes, bold type, characters in active poses, etc.  Compared to that, this book cover looks like an introspective women’s drama.

There are other design problems here — the biggest being a title font which obscures what it says, even at full size — but I think that’s all rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic compared to the biggest problem of genre and audience mis-match.

Anyone else think differently?

 

Pink Strawberry Blossoms

The author says:

Pink Strawberry blossoms is a harem / coming of age story about a guy, Julius, who finds himself as the only guy in an all girls boarding house for the duration of his college course in animation. Being a playboy, Julius finds himself having to manage multiple simultaneous relationships while facing the uncertainties of his future…

Main title page

Main title page

Nathan says:

Now, part of the assumption behind critiques on this site is that the covers are for books to be marketed through mainstream platforms: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.  Thus, a cover designed to appeal to a small niche market might hit all the bases for them, but still garner plenty of criticism on this site.

With that said, it’s strong typography. The type does become pretty unreadable at thumbnail size, though; you should consider a stronger outline around “strawberry” at least, so that something is readable at that size.  Also, as most ebook sites have a plain white background to their pages, the edges of your cover are going to be invisible on those pages just like they are here; you should include a border of some kind simply for demarcation.

More substantively, I’d say that for a book with an “Art and Story by” byline, the cover should feature some of that art.  If you want the type to still be the most prominent thing on the cover, you can reduce the contrast of the image you add, fading it to the background. (I’m assuming, with the anime influence shown here, that any such image would be line art, which fare much better being used that way than photography or full illustration.)

Regarding the author’s name as given: I think that using a screenname for a byline would be a definite turnoff to potential buyers on the mainstream sites; it screams “fanfic” or “messageboard fiction collected into an ebook.”  This is another of those areas where the expectations of a niche market and the expectations of the larger potential market are in conflict.

(And by the way, the huge space between the katakana hi and the maru is really odd.)

Other comments?

The Initiative

The author says:

Something peculiar is lurking beneath the prestigious veneer of The Blanchard Corporation. Sam Maxwell is a recent college graduate who accepts a surprisingly generous job offer to work for the high technology giant. Meanwhile, his life is surreptitiously watched and evaluated by a board of directors anxious to recruit candidates into their clandestine consortium. He’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous chain of events that lead to his premature discovery of a secret program that’s simply known as: The Initiative. THE INITIATIVE: VULNERABILITIES is the first in a series of thriller novels that follows the extraordinary covert career of Sam Maxwell (starting in 1994).

TheInitiative1

TheInitiative1

Nathan says:

It’s a good clear cover, recognizable and readable at thumbnail side, and the no-nonsense type and image of the airplane definitely puts it in the “suspense” category.  So how can we tweak it to turn it up to 11?

Is the angle of the plane supposed to indicate that it’s going down? If so, I think that deepening the background hue from top to bottom would strengthen that impression by giving a clear idea of the horizontal for the diagonal contrail to contrast.

If you do that, changing the title type from black to white with a black border or drop shadow would help it stand out against the darkened background; it would also give a bit more variety to the whole thing.

Any other ideas?

 

The Magician’s Horses

The author says:

The Magician’s Horses is a Sci-fi novel built heavily on mystery and suspense. My intention is to extend beyond the usual Sci-fi audience to reach any young adult reader, while also appealing to the older, more sophisticated Sci-fi fan. I am still working on the wording for the back cover, but envision it reading as follows: “Follow Dave as he is drawn out of his solitary life by a mysterious couple who introduce him to a world of adventure far beyond his television remote. Science and thought combine to form a magic act that breaks the boundaries of time and changes Dave’s world forever…”

cover_bkb

cover_bkb

 

Nathan says:

First up, take a look at your cover. Now take a look at the genre you just described. Now look at your cover again. I’m on a horse! No, wait. Anyway.  I can’t get “science fiction” from what I see. Fantasy, sure — I could definitely see this being the cover of a fantasy novel called The Magician’s Horses. But there’s nothing to cue me in that it’s SF.

And really, that’s the problem so big that other criticisms are moot.  I could talk about how the Web 2.0-style reflections under the title don’t really work, or how the drawn-by-computer sunrise (moonrise?) would be a lot more engaging if it were a photograph, or how the entire cover fades to a dull dark gray in thumbnail size… but all of it would just be rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic if the biggest problem — that the book’s description and its cover don’t come within a country mile of each other — isn’t addressed first.

Anyone else?

 

Love Abideth Still

The author says:

March, 1863. The War Between the States has raged for nearly two years. Five months after his death, the body of Sarah’s estranged husband, a Union soldier, finally comes home for burial in Philadelphia. Taylor’s burial, though, rather than putting her unresolved grief to rest, begins a journey that will not just test her faith, but will plumb the depths of her devotion to her dead husband. When anger and sorrow push her to the edge of despair, Sarah turns to the few letters sent to her by Taylor from the front lines in a desperate need to understand the guilt she feels over his death. But, as the war continues to tear the nation asunder and rumors of a Confederate invasion threaten the North, Sarah’s own sense of patriotic duty begins to awaken. And with that newfound obligation, she discovers in the letters she once dismissed as weak attempts to convince her of his duty to the nation, that Taylor’s voice has the power to soften a heart grown bitter and cold from beyond the grave. Taylor’s letters, though, do not tell the full story of his life as a soldier, a story Sarah will never know…

5.5x8.5-CS-TemplateINDCS4.indd

5.5x8.5-CS-TemplateINDCS4.indd

Nathan says:

Everything here is professionally done, but the final result seems unfocused. As you can see from the thumbnail, there’s not a single engaging image which the reader can grab onto at that size, and when it’s enlarged, there are just more details thrown at his eyes.

One idea might be to enlarge the black-clad woman so she takes up most of the right margin (say, up to the top line of the “OVE” of “LOVE”) then put title to her left, with the handwriting texture on top of the bridge in the background. (I think that with the handwriting all over the cover, the letter in the woman’s hand is overkill.  The same with the soldier’s face; if we’ve got a love-related title, a woman, and handwriting all visible on the cover, the presence of a man in the relationship is assumed and doesn’t need to be spelled out.)

I’d also change the font, or at least the font treatment, for the byline; I immediately thought of the Lord of the Rings posters, which is not the vibe you’re going for here.

Now, what I was sent was actually the full back-and-front cover:

 

unnamed

…so I’ll give a few comments on the back cover, as well.  The handwriting font for the quote from the Gettysburg Address is discouraging; you’d be much better off using a period print font, such as one might see in a newspaper of the time  period.  And the book description is such a dense block of text that I doubt many people would read it when glancing at the book.  Less text, broken into smaller paragraphs, would serve the purpose better.

Any other comments?

 

1000 Days Between: Part 1

The author says:

 In 2005 Dan Perry quit his job as a software engineer and went backpacking in South America. His trip lasted two and a half years; he went 1000 days between jobs (hence the title). The first two chapters focus on his corporate life and his decision to leave. The rest of the book is about his trip, with a focus on the people he met and his inner growth. This will be a two-book series. The main target audience is young adults who are interested in international travel. The book is also geared toward armchair travelers of all ages.

1000DaysBetween_Cover (1)

 

1000DaysBetween_Cover (1)

Nathan says:

I need to preface my remarks by saying that I’m only one man. One terribly intelligent and insightful man (not to mention sexy), but one man nonetheless. So this cover might hit that sweet spot for someone else. But for me…

You’ve noticed how I try to work with the original design concept for almost all of these submissions, but I just really don’t like this one, right down to the core.  Vertical type only rarely works, and this is not one of those rare times.  The distorted type above it just makes it worse.  And Trajan, the font used here?  It’s an overused but still serviceable workhorse, but only because it conveys “epic” well; this is just not the right place for it.

And having the necktie (symbol of corporate employment) divide the briefcase (another symbol of corporate employment) from the backpack (a symbol of travel and freedom) doesn’t work.

I hope someone else has something more positive to say, because the only advice I have is to start over with another concept entirely.

People

 

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